With COVID-19 safety restrictions limiting the number of people at Masses in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, pastors are communicating to their flocks about the importance of making plans far in advance to attend Christmas liturgies.
Mass attendance at parishes across the Archdiocese of St. Louis typically varies depending on the size of the congregation, number of Masses and staffing of priests. A recent communication from the Archdiocese of St. Louis encouraged Catholics to consider attending Masses on Christmas Day or later on Christmas Eve instead of the usually more crowded early Christmas Eve Masses.
Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski also has granted permission for Christmas Vigil Masses to begin no earlier than 3 p.m. on Dec. 24, rather than the prescribed 4 p.m. This is an exception due to the pandemic and is an attempt to accommodate as many of the faithful as possible.
This will be the first major Church holiday in which public Masses have been celebrated since the pandemic began in March. Easter Masses were not publicly celebrated in the archdiocese.
Ascension Parish in Chesterfield began publishing its Christmas Mass times on the first weekend of Advent to give parishioners ample time to make plans, said pastor Father Thomas Molini. Ascension has added several Masses compared to previous years, and Masses that were celebrated in the school’s multipurpose room for Christmases past have been moved to the gymnasium to allow for greater spacing. In all, Ascension has 11 Masses scheduled over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
“We’re trying to provide ample opportunities for people to feel comfortable coming to Mass,” he said. “The biggest question is who will come? We’re not entirely sure how many people to prepare for. It’s the first time we have had to deal with these circumstances” for a major holiday. “We will prepare the best we can for people who will come — and of course, masks are required.”
As dean of the Washington Deanery, Father Joe Post recently emailed his brother priests asking them to consider restricting public ministry when possible leading up to Christmas. Keep yourselves healthy and out of quarantine so you’re available to celebrate Masses on Christmas, he told them. Immaculate Conception in Union, where Father Post is pastor, will keep the same schedule as Christmases past.
“I told my brother priests that this will give us the opportunity to celebrate a Christmas without all the elaborate music and stuff we normally would have had in the past,” he said. Hopefully, this approach will help others remember the simplicity of that first Christmas in the stable at Bethlehem, he added.
“There can be an authentic appreciation of the presence of others,” he said. “Maybe this will give us a Christmas humility of sorts to embrace what Christmas really is all about. It’s not about the material goods and extras. So maybe that’s what we are to gain this year as far as insight and a message of hope.”
St. Monica Parish in Creve Coeur sent a survey to parishioners, asking them to indicate when they planned on attending Mass. For the 5 p.m. Mass on Christmas Eve, parishioners will have to reserve spaces. Depending on the results of the survey and RSVPs, a second Mass could be added on Christmas Eve, said pastor Father Thomas Wyrsch. Other Masses might require an RSVP, also depending on the results of the survey.
Other accommodations are being made, including a parish hall equipped with two video screens for any overflow. The parish also has been sending out communications via email, website, church marquee and social media.
During the pandemic, a dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass remains in place. Additionally, parishes within the Archdiocese of St. Louis continue to offer livestream options for viewers to participate in Masses virtually. Those who are planning to attend Christmas Mass whether in person or virtually are encouraged to contact their chosen parish for the latest information on Mass times and any in-person registration requirements.
Regular Mass streaming schedules, links and more resources to aid in celebrating the Advent and Christmas seasons can be found at